Catalytic converters are found in the exhaust system in-between the engine and the muffler, and they stay as one of the last lines of defense against air pollution from cars. They make use of ceramic-coded beads and different precious metals (the catalysts) to convert pollutants like unburned gas and nitrogen oxide into harmless gases.
What Are Potential Problems With a Catalytic Converter?
Catalytic converters usually last for 10 years or more, but they can get contaminated, clogged, overheated or even physically damaged — resulting to sluggish engine performance and, then, engine shutdown.
One great potential contaminant is leaded gas, which that destroy the catalysts, although it is rarely found in the U.S. Others contaminants include engine coolant, that can leak into the combustion system due to a faulty cylinder head gasket, and engine oil. Those fluids can clog a catalytic converter so that exhaust gases are limited from passing through. Vehicle engines are like athletes in that they need lots of oxygen. If the exhaust flow is reduced, it means less air can get into the engine and the performance suffers. If the engine responds sluggishly or quits after running for a while, a clogged converter could be responsible.
Catalytic converters can overheat due to excessive amounts of unburned gas caused by a misfiring spark plug or a leaky exhaust valve. In addition, a failed oxygen sensor that can cause overheating.
On many cars, the “cat” is found under the vehicle, and like other components of the exhaust system, it can equally be damaged by road debris or by running over a curb.
A Catalytic Converter Theft
These precious metals we just discussed about can attract attention: Catalytic converters are regularly stolen because of the precious metals inside. Converters have small quantities of platinum, rhodium and palladium, all of which have great value for metal dealers.
What is Catalytic Converter Maintenance
Among the signs of a bad catalytic converter are:
- Sluggish engine performance
- Lowered acceleration
- Dark exhaust smoke
- The smell of sulfur or rotten eggs from the exhaust
- Excessive heat under the car
Some of those signs can also be caused by other components of the emissions system, so it’s vital for a mechanic to diagnose when it’s time to change your catalytic converter.
Following your car’s recommended maintenance schedule can assist delay this moment as long as possible — usually 10 years or more. Keeping your exhaust, emissions and combustion systems in good condition will minimize the risk of your catalytic converter failing before its stipulated time.
Lastly, never ignore the check engine light. Catalytic converter damage is one reason that the check engine light is triggered. It could be signaling you to a clogged air or fuel filter. Waiting to replace that filter could result to prematurely to a $1,000 catalytic converter change.